You have the day free to explore Tirana as you please, get to know your fellow cyclists at tonight’s welcome dinner and trip briefing.
After a transfer to Librazhd, your journey to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pogradec begins. You will ease yourself in with a relatively easy ascent, ensuring you preserve some energy for the tougher one later in the day, giving you spectacular views across Lake Ohrid.
You will begin your ride by climbing up from the lake onto a high plateau bounded by picturesque mountains. Your route follows the gorge through this scenic region until the surrounding hills open up leading you into a vast open plain filled with a patchwork of individual farms and spectacular colours. You will ride on and end your day in Korce; once dubbed the Paris of Albania, the city has a well-preserved historical centre with cobblestone streets and many surviving early 20th century villas.
In the morning you will leave behind the agricultural plateau of Korce, climbing steadily into the border mountains through a landscape of barren rock interspersed with wild flowers. Numerous cols and valleys lie ahead on our undulating route which offers up plenty of stunning landscapes as you skirt the Albanian-Greek border. Your climbing takes you into the deep heart of the Grammoz Mountains and over the Barmash Pass (1159 m) to the town of Germenj which lies in its own tranquil valley.
Your morning route rises slowly out from Germenj to a high grassy plateau surrounded by some magnificent soaring peaks. You will reach the source of the River Vjosa before descending through its spectacular gorge to the sleepy town of Leskovik. The descent continues to Cashare and then you follow the wonderful cliff road high above the river to Permet, situated on a bluff above the river. Famed for its cuisine and its strong raki, Permet provides you with your overnight stay and an opportunity this evening to enjoy some traditional Albanian delicacies in a local restaurant.
Today’s ride is fairly flat without any sharp climbs as you head for one of Albania’s most scenic destinations. The morning ride continues along the valley towards Kelcyra where the distant shark’s tooth peaks guard a further gorge. You will ride between the sharp ranges to the confluence of the Drinos River and follow another gorge until it opens opens out into a beautiful wide plain. You will finish our day in the ‘City of 1000 Steps’, Gjirokaster. This UNESCO World Heritage Site city clings to the slope of Gjere mountain above the valley of the Drinos river. Gjirokaster has a charming bazaar area with Ottoman houses and small shops facing narrow cobbled streets.
A great day of cycling awaits you as the trail takes you over a climb before descending through absorbing countryside to Saranda, the southern gateway city of Albania. The city lies along the Ionian coast, sandwiched between the high mountains and the Greek island of Corfu, and is characterised by a Mediterranean climate and warm sea waters. The city is close to the ancient remains of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will start the day climbing sharply out of Saranda to a rocky plateau. Today is a roller coaster of a ride today, ascending and descending as the morning mist is burnt off by the sun. Then it’s over grand cols into picturesque bays and around broad headlands, always with the stunning mountain scenery to the right and sea to the left. You will finish your ride with a last climb before descending to the long beach and the bay of Himara, one of the top tourist destinations in Albania.
Today you will ride past stunning coastal towns toward Vlore before an epic climb. You will be faced with some tough switchbacks that climb up to 1030 m over 8 kilometres. This climb is of course optional and the support van is available to take you to the top for an amazing downhill through Llogara National Park.
One last seaside breakfast before you transfe to Mother Teresa Airport or to your hotel in Tirana if you have extended your stay.
Albania is fast becoming the Balkan’s next big travel destination. Mammoth communist-era structures stand beside newly built luxury apartments in Tirana. Neighbourhoods have been re-energised through renovation and café culture and a once closed country is now a glittering beacon on the Adriatic coast. As you get off the beaten track, you will explore old Albania. Stunning plateaus, rushing waters spilling into gigantic gorges and villages that time forgot, all await your arrival.